The security of Western Europe requires us to explore a radically new line of policy to which, in the present debate about this subject, little attention has so far been paid.1

In this debate, two points of view are predominant. On the one hand, entrenched in government circles, there are the Atlanticists, who seek to recall us to the old verities of the Alliance: preservation of the existing structure of NATO, support for American efforts to maintain the nuclear balance, maintenance of a strong defense posture toward the East. On the other hand, acting as a powerful influence in public opinion, at least in all the northern European countries belonging to NATO, there are the Neutralists, who favor total or partial withdrawal from the Alliance, unilateral nuclear disarmament and expulsion of foreign nuclear bases, and, in some cases, reduction of conventional defense expenditure. We need, I believe, to examine a third alternative that would recognize the necessity for a more independent posture for Western Europe, but seek to base this on strength rather than on weakness. I call this a Europeanist alternative. It does not imply the break-up of NATO, but it does require its reform: the transfer from North American to European hands of a greater share of the burden of European defense, and along with it of a greater share of responsibility for decisions. In what follows I seek to show why this new policy should be pursued, what it would involve and how one might grapple with the difficulties to which it would lead, which I do not wish to disguise.


There are three reasons why the countries of Western Europe should explore a Europeanist approach to their security. First, the old formulas of North Atlantic unity do not adequately recognize the differences of interest, both real and perceived, that divide the United States from its European partners. There are differences over trade, made more urgent by the recession and more visible by the fact that the European Community negotiates as one bloc. There are differences over "values," which are often said to unite the Alliance, yet the moral attitudes of the present U.S. Administration toward questions of peace and social justice have contributed heavily to the alienation of West European opinion from the Alliance. There are differences arising over the commitment of the United States to a global struggle with the Soviet Union for power and influence. It is a European interest as well as an American one that in this struggle the United States should ensure that the Soviet Union does not establish military supremacy over the world as a whole, but Europe's interests in the struggle are not the same as America's: Western Europe has no particular interest, for example, in the restoration of the kind of U.S. predominance in the world as a whole that existed from the late 1940s to the early 1960s, which some elements in American society seek to rebuild for reasons of national pride or nostalgia, or misplaced ideological zeal. There are differences in attitudes toward political and economic change in the Third World, which the United States at present is inclined to resist and to equate with Soviet penetration, but to which West European countries, in their policies toward the Arab world, black Africa and Latin America (admittedly with some exceptions), have been more ready to accommodate in recent years.

More important than any of the above, for they touch the core of NATO itself, there are differences over the security of Western Europe. The basic common interest that underlies the Atlantic Alliance is that which all the members perceive in providing Western Europe with security, and-no less important-a conviction of its security, against the threat of Soviet attack. This common interest is still present, and is still recognized to exist by all governments and predominant public opinion in all the countries concerned on both sides of the Atlantic. But, in Western Europe, security against threats from the East is believed (correctly) to rest not only on the defensive strength of the West but also on preservation of the structure of agreements with the Soviet Union about political coexistence, normalization of frontiers and economic cooperation to which we give the name détente; in the United States, on the other hand, détente has been treated as subordinate to the wider needs of the global struggle with the Soviet Union. In Western Europe, moreover, the security of the region is perceived to be threatened, and is in fact threatened, not only by the military power of the Soviet Union but also by the possibility of war itself, especially of nuclear war, which could begin not only as the result of failure to deter the Soviet Union, but also through accident or miscalculation, or as the consequence of decisions taken by the United States.

It is true that the security of the United States also rests on a structure of understandings with the Soviet Union, even if the declaratory positions of the United States in recent years have tended to obscure this. The United States also faces a danger of war by accident or miscalculation and has a vital need for the control of nuclear armaments, as the American peace movement proclaims. But the United States is not as vulnerable to the effects of decisions on matters of nuclear peace and war taken by the West European countries as the latter are to the effects of decisions taken in Washington: it is the West European countries which are dependent on the United States for a nuclear deterrent against a Soviet attack, and it is on their soil that American nuclear weapons are deployed that can bring destruction upon them but whose use they are not able to control.

Differences of interest among their members should not be regarded as fatal to alliances, which never rest upon a complete identity of interests and only require a partial one. NATO has survived the differences that arose over German rearmament and over the Suez war in the 1950s, over Gaullism and the Vietnam War in the 1960s, and the oil crisis and the October War in the 1970s. It did so, however, by adapting to change. Underlying the peace movement in the West European countries and the wider spectrum of opinion that is uneasy about our present defense arrangements, there is the correct perception that the risks of alliance with the United States on present terms have grown to such an extent that they threaten to outweigh the gains. This points to the conclusion that the West European countries should seek to assume greater control of their own security, not by leaving the Atlantic Alliance but at least by seeking to change its structure.

Second, the policies advocated by the Neutralists, while they are based partly on a correct perception of the differences of interest between the United States and Western Europe, would expose the latter to Soviet domination. We do not have to suppose that the Soviet Union has some plan to invade Western Europe or to subvert its political systems; the evidence suggests that Moscow's chief preoccupations in Europe are defensive, and that if it has any hopes of extending its ascendancy in Eastern Europe to the West, policies to realize them are not given a high priority. But these Soviet intentions have been formed in a strategic context in which the defensive measures taken by the Western powers render aggressive plans in any case unrealizable. If the West's defensive guard were to be lowered, Soviet intentions would be likely to change; options not now taken seriously by the Soviet leadership would be likely to be taken more seriously, and, if they were not, a new leadership, prepared to adopt these options, would displace them.

If the West European countries were to choose to loosen their connections with the United States but at the same time to leave themselves without nuclear arms of their own, to allow their conventional defenses to run down and to take no steps to bind themselves together in a defense combination in which they could define their common interests and pool their resources, the likely consequence would be that Soviet hegemony would extend itself over the whole of Europe, even if not totally or at once. The security of Western Europe still requires that there should be a balance of military power on the European continent. If Western Europe is to disengage from the United States and rely upon it less in matters of defense, then it must seek to maintain the balance against the Soviet Union in Europe from its own resources.

A third reason why Western Europe should explore this new course relates to what may be called its dignity. The countries of Western Europe form one of the principal centers of population, wealth and human skills in the world today, and have a historical position that has placed them for centuries at the forefront of world affairs. There is no objective or material reason why Western Europe cannot provide the resources for its own security without depending on others; the reasons why it has failed to do so are not material but spiritual or psychological. It may be honorable for small and weak nations to look to outside powers to provide their security for them, as it was for the battered and impoverished European nations that looked to the United States when the Atlantic Alliance was formed in 1949. But it is demeaning that the rich and prosperous democracies of Western Europe in the 1980s (admittedly, to different degrees in different cases) should fail to provide the resources for their own security and prefer to live as parasites on a transatlantic protector increasingly restless in this role.

A policy of increased expenditure on armaments would impose a cost upon European standards of living. It would be unpopular with those elements in our societies that regard defense expenditure as mere waste and tell us that the money should be spent on building hospitals or aiding the Third World, forgetting that security is the first responsibility of every society and that societies which do not allocate an adequate proportion of their resources to providing for it do not survive. The effects of defense spending on industry and technology may be more harmful than beneficial, although this is not clear. But the cultivation of greater self-reliance in providing for the security of Western Europe might help to stimulate a process of renewal. It would certainly restore our self-respect. It would, I believe, by separating the issue of national and European defense from the issue of support for U.S. policies, help to make possible a rebuilding of the public consensus for defense policies, as has been done in France. It might bring about a more responsible climate of public debate about defense issues in place of the facile posturing and humbug about disarmament that constitute the sum total of what some of our political leaders have to say to us about our security. And it might clear away the sometimes shallow and uninformed criticism of American policies that thrives in Western Europe because so few people have needed to confront the problems of security in the nuclear age as they really are, and to think the issues through. I believe finally that it is only by confronting directly the problems of their security (and not, as the organs of the European Economic Community have done, seeking to steer clear of them) that the European nations can make progress toward realizing the idea of their unity.


The countries of Western Europe are superior to the Soviet Union in population, wealth, technology and military potential, and the idea that Russia is the naturally dominant power in Europe, against which Europe itself can construct no counterbalance without importing outside help, is a very recent one. It should not be regarded as an axiom left unquestioned during the next three or four decades of European politics, as it has been in the last. It remains unassailable only if we assume that the Soviet Union will retain its internal cohesion, that West Germany will remain militarily emasculated, that Western Europe is without any effective form of political and strategic unity and that its peoples remain unwilling to shoulder larger defense burdens. It is not unthinkable that a West European defense combination might one day have strength enough to balance the Soviet Union without bringing the United States directly into the equation.

But no serious student of these matters can imagine that such a goal is realizable now, or even that it can command sufficient support in Western Europe to be adopted now as a long-term goal. The physical presence of American troops in Western Europe and the deterrent effect of its strategic nuclear forces will remain necessary ingredients in Western Europe's security, and in its sense of security, for many years to come. Any steps toward making Western Europe more self-sufficient in military terms should be taken in such a way as not to jeopardize America's commitment to maintain them. What I do contend is that within the context of NATO, Britain and its West European allies should seek to develop a distinct European strategic pillar of the Alliance that will reduce the old dependence on the United States without creating a new dependence on the Soviet Union, and sustain the distinct interests and objectives of which West European countries are increasingly conscious in world affairs.

In relation to a number of major issues in world politics (world trade; détente in Europe; the conferences on European Security and Cooperation; policy toward the Middle East; policy toward black Africa) the countries of Western Europe, or at least (thanks largely to the process of coordination of foreign policies known as European Political Cooperation) those of them that are members of the European Community, now adopt substantially similar positions. It is not unrealistic to speak of the existence of a European foreign policy line, or even of the emergence of a diplomatic concert of West European states.

This emerging diplomatic concert, however, does not embrace matters of defense and security. For all the member-states of the European Community, leaving aside neutralist Ireland, it is NATO and not any European grouping that they regard as the association that is basic to their military security. The foreign ministers of the Community countries meet to coordinate their policies, but the defense ministers do not; the European Economic Community itself, despite some efforts within its Commission and within the European Parliament to prod it in this direction, has played no role in this field. It is true that the 1948 Brussels Pact linking Britain, France and the Benelux countries, expanded in 1954 to facilitate West Germany's entry into NATO and the renamed Western European Union, provides an association which is purely European and rests upon formal defense obligations more rigorous than those of NATO itself. But it is at present largely moribund, as well as being limited in its membership, and distasteful to West Germany because of its association with arms control restrictions discriminating against Bonn. It is also true that within the framework of NATO certain European groupings have sprung up-notably the Eurogroup, a caucus of European NATO members set up in 1968 but without the participation of France and the IEPG (Independent European Programmes Group)-concerned with various aspects of arms production and trade. But these do not answer the need for a combination of European powers that would in substantial measure shift the responsibility and the burden of defending Western Europe from American to West European hands.

The present distribution of responsibilities and burdens within NATO is still, despite some modification, that which was established in the early years of the Alliance when the United States enjoyed an immense preponderance of power-economic and political as well as military-in relation to its European allies. The United States assumed a disproportionately large share of the burdens-in terms of defense expenditures and with respect to both nuclear and conventional forces-and in return expected a privileged position in Alliance decision-making, which the allies freely conceded. Now that the power relationship between the American and European halves of the Alliance is less unequal, both parties are restive about the old arrangements, and adjustments should be made.

American opinion insists, very reasonably, that the European allies are now in a position to shoulder a larger share of the military burdens-not only of the conventional defense of Western Europe and its sea and air space and communications, but also of the defense of its interests outside the NATO area. At the same time, European opinion insists, also reasonably, that the United States can no longer assert the kind of predominance in Alliance decision-making to which it became accustomed at the time when the countries of Western Europe were, to one degree or another, its dependents or wards. American opinion, perhaps, has yet to recognize that a more equal sharing of the burdens of the Alliance must bring with it a diminished role for the United States in determining common policies. European opinion has yet to recognize that its claim to a larger part in Alliance decision-making has to be validated by a willingness to assume a larger share of common burdens. A European foreign policy posture that rests upon so-called "civilian power" alone, and is not made credible by military instrumentalities which European states control, will make only a limited impression on the rest of the world, and leave the European allies still with no alternative to following in the wake of the United States, where matters involving peace and war are concerned.

The immediate need is that the governments of the West European members of NATO should come together to define their common interests in the political and strategic fields, and devise means through which they may be promoted. At the center of these common interests there lies the issue of West European security, and the policies that should be devised are preeminently in the area of defense and arms control. Various forums for such conversations-the European Council (the meetings of heads of government of the Community countries), meetings of foreign ministers in the context of European Political Cooperation, a regular meeting of defense ministers-may be appropriate. What is necessary is that, in one of these ways or another, a European strategic identity should be brought into being, within the wider framework of the Alliance, and given permanent institutional form.

This is the present step which, it appears to me, is the vital one. What common interests in the field of security might be agreed upon were such a European strategic identity brought into being, and what policies might grow out of it, are more speculative questions. In what follows I seek to present, as it were, an agenda for a meeting, or series of meetings, addressed to these issues.


A basic element in a Europeanist defense policy must be the strengthening of Western Europe's conventional defenses in relation to the Soviet Union. This requires a radical change in public attitudes toward defense expenditure, but some powerful arguments may be presented in favor of such a change.

It is now widely recognized that the Alliance needs to reduce its dependence on the early use of nuclear weapons to stem a Soviet advance in a conflict initially restricted to conventional weapons. Various schemes for reducing the likelihood that such a conflict might expand to the nuclear level now command a degree of public interest and support (a commitment to no first use of nuclear weapons; a nuclear-free zone in central Europe; a unilateral Western reduction in the number of battlefield nuclear weapons deployed in Central Europe), but such schemes can form part of a responsible security policy only if they are put forward in the context of the raising of conventional force levels to the point where they will provide an acceptable balance against those of the Soviet Union. We need, of course, to bear in mind that an acceptable balance does not necessarily require numerical equality of tanks, divisions, combat personnel, etc., given the advantages now thought to lie with the defensive in conventional warfare; and also that conventional rearmament does not imply abandonment of the longstanding (but admittedly thus far fruitless) attempt through the negotiations on Mutual and Balanced Force Reductions to reach agreement with the Soviet Union on reducing the level of the balance.

European conventional rearmament can also help to sustain the American public's flagging commitment to the defense of Western Europe. The defense efforts of the West European countries, especially of the larger ones, may not be as feeble relative to those of the United States as they are sometimes said to be in the latter country, but they certainly lag behind.2 A withdrawal or drastic reduction of U.S. forces in the near future would present Western Europe with a crisis which it is still not ready to meet. At a time when demands for withdrawal in the United States are strengthened by public irritation toward Europe over conflicts of policy, growing attention toward American commitments in other areas of the world and the demographic shift away from the Atlantic seaboard, there is a West European interest in demonstrating a willingness to assume a greater share of common burdens.

Such a policy is also required if the West European allies are to substantiate claims for a larger role in the making of defense decisions. The West European allies, through consultative machinery to which I have referred above, should seek to establish common views as to the circumstances in which, and the ways in which, the Alliance should use or threaten the use of force in Europe. A restructuring of the present machinery of the Alliance, perhaps involving the appointment of a European to the office of Supreme Allied Commander, Europe, is desirable to this end. There is no possibility of agreement on changes of this nature unless the European member-countries can show, by increasing their role in European defense, that they are entitled to a greater voice in shaping it.


A basic cause of the legitimate anxieties being expressed in West European countries about security is their present dependence on U.S. nuclear forces deployed within some of them, over which European governments and peoples have no control, either in the positive sense of being able to order their use, or in the negative sense of having a veto over it.

While Western Europe is confronted by a nuclear-armed Soviet Union, it is illusory to imagine that Britain and its European partners can dispense with the double-edged protection of their security afforded by a nuclear force. We must work to reduce our dependence on nuclear weapons, and to reduce the role played by nuclear weapons in world affairs more generally; and conventional rearmament will help us to do this, as argued above. But this does not mean that we can rely on a conventional defense alone. While the Soviet Union has the capacity itself to use, or threaten to use, nuclear weapons against us, we must seek a nuclear counterpoise to it. For the present, moreover, such a counterpoise cannot be provided without reliance on the United States.

We do, however, need to recognize the double-edged nature of the protection afforded by nuclear weapons, which on the one hand serve to deter attack by an adversary but on the other hand expose us to increased risks in the event of war. We have also to recognize that the risks for Europe are magnified because the nuclear weapons on which we mainly depend for this form of protection are not under the physical control of European governments. It follows from this that there are two objectives which Western Europe should seek to achieve: one is European control, in a negative sense, over U.S. nuclear forces deployed in Europe; the other is European control, in a positive sense, over nuclear forces serving the objectives of the European peoples themselves. Neither objective is immediately attainable, but we may at least identify the direction in which it is desirable to move.

Western Europe is now host to six or seven thousand U.S. nuclear weapons. Although their use is nominally subject to agreement by host governments, the latter do not have any physical capacity to veto their use, except under "double key" arrangements for employment of tactical or battlefield nuclear weapons held in U.S. custody. In Britain, for example, this situation applies to the nuclear-armed U.S. bomber forces deployed in the United Kingdom for many years, and presumably to nuclear-armed submarines using Holy Loch, as well as to the proposed cruise missile deployments. A basic European security objective should be to remove these weapons from European soil where this is consistent with European security, and to establish some form of European physical veto over their use where it is not. Such steps may be at the expense of the efficacy of deterrence of the Soviet Union; however, we have to bear in mind the need to balance considerations of deterrence against the other risks to our security contained in the present arrangements. The proposed deployment of cruise and Pershing II missiles in certain European countries-whether or not it goes ahead in the absence of arms control agreements with the Soviet Union-should not be acceptable to European governments without physical arrangements that would provide the host governments with negative control.

If West European peoples are to reduce their dependence on U.S. nuclear protection, they must also grasp the nettle of establishing positive control over nuclear forces of their own. The obstacles to this course are familiar. The nuclear forces of Britain and France are miniscule compared to those of the United States. British nuclear policy is tied closely to that of the United States, and Britain's decision to purchase the Trident missile ensures that it will remain so tied. Neither Britain nor France has yet displayed any willingness to collaborate in nuclear weapons policy, either as regards production or strategy, and the latter has repudiated suggestions of some form of Franco-German collaboration. Outside Britain and France there has been little willingness in Western Europe to regard British or French forces as serving a European role, as opposed to purely national roles, or to regard them as possible substitutes for the U.S. deterrent. A European nuclear force is commonly thought to presuppose a European federal government, and thus to be beyond the bounds of practical possibility. Public opinion in some West European countries, moreover, is at present in an anti-nuclear mood, and would view proposals for increased reliance on European-controlled nuclear weapons with disfavor.

These obstacles appear to me less formidable than they are sometimes thought to be. The effectiveness of a deterrent force is measured not only by its size and technical capacity to penetrate defenses and bring about destruction but also by the values at stake for the deterrer in a given conflict. In a situation in which Britain or France itself is threatened, the fact that a nuclear force is under the control of the British or French government may be more important than its size relative to that of the U.S. force. We should not assume, moreover, that a West European nuclear force must duplicate the forces available to the United States and the Soviet Union; its purpose would not be to enable Europe to dispute world primacy with the superpowers, but rather to provide a minimum deterrent against the extreme and highly improbable contingency of a direct Soviet nuclear threat.

Britain and France are not now in a position to make arrangements for joint production of nuclear weapons, but this is no reason why they cannot enter into arrangements for coordination of policy and strategy. It is true that West European opinion as a whole attaches little credibility to the idea that British and French forces play a European role; but no attempt has yet been made to give them such a role, or to create structures that would lead other European peoples to regard them as having such a role. A first step in this direction would be the establishment of a European Nuclear Planning Committee, analogous to the NATO one, to which Britain and France would report on their policies in regard to nuclear weapons, and at which other European governments could make known their concerns.3 A European political authority controlling nuclear forces of its own is indeed beyond the bounds of practicability at present, but this does not preclude the taking of steps toward a European role for the Anglo-French forces, especially at a time when concern about dependence on U.S. weapons is high in Western Europe, and a broad consensus about policy toward the East unites the West European countries.

The anxieties, including the many legitimate ones, which large sections of public opinion have today about our present dependence on nuclear weapons in no way preclude this course. For these anxieties derive in part not from reluctance to recognize the role that nuclear weapons must continue to play in our security, but from the fact that the particular nuclear weapons on which we chiefly depend are controlled by an ally whose policies in the matter of security are substantially at variance with those of the West European countries. In France, of course, where there are no foreign nuclear weapons or proposals to deploy them, but rather a national nuclear force, there is a broad basis of public support for the government's approach to nuclear security. It is notable also that, in Britain, public opinion polls indicate a majority against deployment of the U.S.-controlled cruise missiles, but also a majority for retention of a British nuclear force. This should not be put down to misguided nationalist sentiment in these two countries; it is eminently arguable that our security is better served by nuclear forces that we control than by those we do not. If West European governments can demonstrate that their attitude toward nuclear weapons is a responsible one, that they are committed to minimizing the role of these weapons and to paying proper regard to Soviet fears and susceptibilities, they should be able to secure public support for preserving the element of nuclear force that is still necessary for their security.

Soviet General Secretary Yuri Andropov's recent proposals that the size of the medium-range Soviet theater nuclear force should be related to the size of Anglo-French nuclear forces is interesting in this connection. There are familiar reasons why the Western powers should not accept it: Britain and France, like Western Europe as a whole, are threatened not only by Soviet theater forces but also by Soviet long-range forces; they would be unwise to appear to allow the Soviet Union the right to have a say in the size of their nuclear forces; and the West as a whole might hesitate to accept the principle that the Soviet Union may claim nuclear forces equal to those of the NATO allies in combination. Nevertheless, the concept of a European nuclear balance, which is not dependent on U.S. nuclear deployments in Europe (although it might still depend on U.S. continental and ocean-based forces) but basically on European-controlled nuclear forces, is one for which there is a great deal to be said.

An important task for a European strategic entity that is brought into being will also be to consider Western Europe's political and strategic interests outside the NATO area.

It is sometimes said, both by American critics bemoaning Europe's "parochialism" and by Europeans wishing to dissociate themselves from America's global involvements, that European interests are now purely regional.

This is a view which should be resisted. The countries of the European Community are collectively one of the great forces in world trade. Britain, France, Spain, Portugal, Belgium and Holland have enduring extra-European involvements arising out of their roles as colonial powers. Western Europe as a whole has a vital interest in access to Persian Gulf oil. Its security may be directly affected by relations between the Soviet Union and China, by racial war in southern Africa, by the outcome of conflicts in the Middle East, or by the prospects for a return to détente between the superpowers.

Western Europe's interests, vis-à-vis the great array of international political issues around the globe, are unlikely to be always the same as those of the United States. The fact that today the Community countries have taken somewhat different attitudes from the United States over, for example, access to oil and Middle Eastern issues, relations with South Africa, Central America and North-South relations, is a sign not of their parochialism but of their different interests and perceptions. Suggestions that there might be a division of labor in which the European countries concentrate on European defense and the United States on global issues wrongly take for granted an identity of interests and approaches. It will surely be necessary for the European allies to develop their own capabilities to influence events outside Europe, rather than regard the United States as the trustee of their interests.


A Europeanist policy is not possible unless a more positive role comes to be played by West Germany. Germany is the largest and richest country in Europe. It is only on the basis of West German power that a West European counterpoise to the Soviet Union can be constructed. This means that West Germany will need to play some role, even if at first a small one, in the control of European nuclear forces; that West Germany's already considerable preponderance in West European conventional land forces will increase; that the discriminatory arms control provisions applying to West Germany under the 1954 agreements must further erode, if not disappear altogether; and that West Germany must come to play a more prominent role in the taking of political and strategic decisions.

No step can be taken in this direction without at once encountering the old and powerful inhibitions felt by the Soviet Union and its Warsaw Pact allies, by West Germany's own allies and, not least, by the West Germans themselves, about the very idea that Germany might return to a "normal" status in world affairs. Even apart from these inhibitions, West Germany's continuing interest in the restoration of German unity, to which the Soviet Union holds the key, raises a persistent doubt about the permanence of its alliance with the West, which no number of affirmations of Bonn's unswerving loyalty will wholly eradicate. It must also be recognized that a decline in America's role in Europe's defense might lead to a reopening of the question of the status of West Berlin.

But these nettles, sooner or later, will have to be grasped. It will soon be 40 years since the end of the Second World War. West Germany is an exemplary social democracy. The broad lines of its present foreign policy enjoy a wide measure of support in Western Europe as a whole. The legitimization of its eastern frontiers has removed some, even if by no means all, of the sources of its neighbors' anxieties. It is on German soil that a war for the defense of Western Europe is most likely to take place. A sudden change would alarm all parties, but an accelerated evolution toward West Germany's assumption of a more normal role is a vital element in the package.

West Germany's continued interest in German unity does indeed raise the question whether its commitment to West European unity can ever be unqualified. It would be erroneous to suppose, however, that West Germany will be drawn irresistibly, in the long run, to opt for German unity rather than for maintenance of its West European ties, whatever the cost. If, over the last century, we have come to regard a politically united Germany as the norm, we have to remember that in a longer view of history-indeed, since the fall of the Hohenstaufen in the thirteenth century-the normal condition of Germany has been one of political fragmentation. Nor would it be correct to assume that West Germany is bound some day to have the option of restoring national unity; indeed, for as long as the Soviet Union remains a great power, this is unlikely.

The tensions arising from the unsolved problem of German unity are in any case a feature of the Alliance as it stands at present, in which there is no European strategic identity within the wider Atlantic framework; it seems likely that West Germany's loyalty to the West would not be weaker but stronger if there were a militarily powerful European pillar of NATO in which the Federal Republic were a leading element.

A Europeanist strategic policy, moreover, can have no meaning without the loyalty and commitment of France. In some ways the course I am prescribing for Western Europe as a whole has already been adopted by France: indigenously controlled nuclear weapons, loyalty to NATO but insistence on a distinct personality within it. Of course, it is possible to doubt whether France would be prepared to qualify its purely national aims in defense policy by participating in a European strategic grouping. France may be no more prepared to join an integrated military structure of a European character, supposing this were established, than it has been to remain in the integrated structure of NATO (from which it withdrew in 1966). France has so far given no encouragement to the idea that the European Community should involve itself in defense questions. Yet the recent proposal of the Mitterrand government to revamp the Western European Union, the grouping of seven European NATO countries set up in connection with West Germany's entry into NATO in the mid-1950s, demonstrates some sympathy in France for the direction of the present argument. A European defense grouping today would not be likely to require France to merge its military identity into an integrated international structure of the kind France rejected when its National Assembly failed to ratify the treaty for a European Defense Community in 1954. France has also shown, as in the decision to station the Pluton missile in Germany, a willingness to move away from a purely national role for its nuclear forces.

A Europeanist solution also requires a change of policy in Britain. There are many factors in Britain that cause it to hesitate before moving in the direction I have been outlining. Britain is the principal foreign architect of the American commitment to Western Europe. It has been in many ways a favored beneficiary of this relationship. Its reliance on America in defense is older than the Alliance itself. There is a deep fear within the older generation in Britain-in contrast to the younger-that American withdrawal would mean a return to the situation that existed before 1941 when Britain was uncomfortably alone in a Europe without America. There is the known antagonism of a majority of ordinary British people toward membership in the European Community. Within that very substantial section of the British public that is deeply uneasy about the American alliance, many are drawn toward the alternative example offered by neutralist, nuclear-free Scandinavia.

It is, however, with its European allies rather than with the United States that Britain is aligned on the most serious issues that divide the Atlantic Alliance, and it is only by combining with them that Britain can effectively promote its point of view. The idea, deeply embedded in Whitehall, that cooperation in political and economic areas may continue to develop among the European partners, while military matters remain the preserve of NATO, is basically unsound. If Britain were aligned militarily in a European combination within the Atlantic framework that could give priority to European interests and objectives, had the capacity to disengage from American policies when these were at loggerheads with those of Western Europe, and to take initiatives independent of America, a climate of public opinion more favorable to defense, including nuclear defense, might come about.


A Europeanist approach to defense has to be worked out with careful attention to the reaction of the Soviet Union. Moscow might welcome a diminished American role in Western Europe, but not the emergence of a more powerful West European defense capability, especially if this were to involve a more prominent role for Western Germany, perhaps including what the Soviet Union would claim to be "a finger on the nuclear trigger." This is no reason to flinch from carrying out these policies; West European rearmament would indeed be intended to deprive the Soviet Union of options it would rather have; complaints are only to be expected. On the other hand, it is also an object of the Europeanist policy to preserve the fruits of East-West détente in Europe by disengaging from an American policy that puts them in danger. There would be a need, in strengthening Western Europe's military capacity, to do so in such a way as not to threaten the Soviet Union or undermine its interest in coexistence and cooperation. Western Europe would need to demonstrate its continuing acceptance of the territorial settlements reached between West Germany and its eastern neighbors, its continuing interest in economic cooperation with the Soviet bloc and its willingness to explore arms limitation in the European theater.

Western Europe already exerts a great attraction-economic, cultural and political-over the countries of Eastern Europe. It cannot and should not disavow its links with them, or its interests in political change in Eastern Europe and in a more intimate relationship with it; and it should continue to explore frameworks for all-European security and cooperation. But this should be on the basis of willingness to live with the Soviet-dominated socialist bloc and not of attempts to subvert it.

Equally important, a Europeanist policy would have to be executed with careful attention to its effect on the United States. There are good reasons why American opinion should be gratified by the emergence of a Western Europe that is more willing to shoulder the common burdens of defense, more united and more relaxed about its relationship to the United States because it has become less dependent on it. On the other hand, this Europe is likely to disappoint some of the expectations that Americans commonly have about it. It would be less willing to follow the American lead, more capable of working against American policies should it wish to do so, and more of a risk as an ally of the United States than one America is able to control. The policy I have sketched out would mean that the North American and European sides of the Atlantic Alliance were less effectively coupled to one another, if not wholly decoupled: this would carry both disadvantages and advantages for the United States, as it would for Europe. A division of the Alliance between American and European pillars, moreover, would be unwelcome in Canada, whose interest in maintaining a European defense commitment would be more difficult to sustain.

Nevertheless, a Europeanist policy would serve the best interests not only of Europe but also-at least in an enlightened view of what they are-of the United States. It might also provide the best prospects for preserving the unity of the Western world in the years ahead, when unity will only be possible on the basis of adjustments to changed conditions. These adjustments, however, will have to be carried out with care and sensitivity on both sides. If Western Europe has an interest in reducing its dependence on America, it also has to remember that it will need America's strategic support for a long time to come, and that a neoisolationist mood in the United States, fed by neutralism and anti-Americanism in Europe, may lead to a premature withdrawal. A turning toward what I have called a Europeanist course by the West European countries is bound to result in an America that will regard its interest in European defense more cautiously and critically; it will be for Europe to ensure that the United States continues to perceive this interest.

Finally, a Europeanist policy is not viable unless the nations of Western Europe can develop some appropriate form of unity. This is the greatest uncertainty of all.

There is as yet no supranational community in Western Europe but only a group of nation-states. Their history is one of endemic mutual conflict, and if they have recently established a habit of cooperation, this has been against the background of the physical presence of the United States and common fear of the Soviet Union. If the physical presence of the United States were reduced or eliminated, is there not a danger that the Western European nations would fall apart? In a crisis brought about by pressure from the East, would a putatively more self-sufficient Western Europe pull together, or disintegrate? If the present diplomatic concert of West European states has some capacity to endure, can it be stretched to include on the one hand neutral Sweden and quasi-neutral Denmark and Norway, and on the other hand Spain, Greece and Turkey, whose entry or projected entry into European institutions is likely still further to dilute their unity?

Every new course in politics, however, has to begin with some vision of an alternative to present realities. There are some important elements of unity on which to build. We do not have to wait for the European Community to evolve into a political federation. Important as the Community is as a symbol of European unity and a vehicle of cooperation, it is nation-states that are the major political realities in contemporary Europe, and it is their recognition of common interests that gives the idea of West European unity its chief content. The first steps should be taken by the major powers, which need to create a forum in which the European NATO allies meet at the highest level to define their strategic interests, and coordinate defense policies so as to promote them. They will need to discuss strategic plans and doctrines, defense budgets, arms and armed forces. They will need to assess Western Europe's strategic objectives outside the North Atlantic area, as well as within it. They will need to establish consultative procedures, administrative machinery and chains of command that will make the armed forces of the European pillar of the Alliance the instrument of common European policies. They will need to enter into binding commitments.

It would be wrong, I believe, to attempt to prescribe in detail the precise nature of the organizational structure or structures that might be devised, but there are a number of existing institutions which could be developed: the European Council-the meetings of heads of government of Community countries; the meetings of foreign ministers of the Community countries engaged in coordination of foreign policy; the Western European Union. It should be an objective to bring about ultimately a coincidence between the membership of the European strategic combination and that of the European Community.

The objective should be a West European military alliance-an alliance within an alliance, preserving the wider structure of NATO. There might ultimately be a European alliance without NATO, just as there was in 1948 when the Atlantic Alliance had not yet been established. The idea of a Europe responsible for its own security can breathe new life into the movement for European unity. The European Community will never become a community in the true sense while it continues to steer clear of this problem. If it were to take courage and grapple with the question of defense, which has always been much more at the heart of the issue of European unity than any matter of economic policy, it might recapture the vitality and sense of purpose which today it has so conspicuously lost.

1 But see Bernard Burrows and Geoffrey Edwards, The Defence of Western Europe, Guildford (Eng.): Butterworth Scientific, 1982.

2 As a percentage of gross national product, the defense expenditures of the NATO countries in 1980 were: United States 5.5%; Britain 5.1%; France 3.9%; West Germany 3.2%; Italy 2.4%; Denmark 2.4%; Belgium 3.3%; Greece 5.1%; Netherlands 3.4%; Norway 2.9%; Portugal 3.8%; Turkey 4.2%; Luxembourg 1.0%; Canada 1.7%. (Source: The Military Balance, 1981-1982, IISS, London.)

3 This has been suggested by Bernard Burrows and Geoffrey Edwards, op. cit.


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  • Hedley Bull has been Montague Burton Professor of International Relations at Oxford since 1977, and before that was for ten years Professor of International Relations at the Australian National University. He is the author of The Anarchical Society: A Study of Order in World Politics, The Control of the Arms Race, and other works. Some of the material in this article also appears in "Civilian Power Europe: A Contradiction in Terms?," Journal of Common Market Studies, Sept.-Dec., 1982. Copyright (c) 1983 by The Atlantic Quarterly (London).
  • More By Hedley Bull